National News

More convictions in Hells Angels' beating case

By James Keller, The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER - Three men were convicted Friday of manslaughter in the beating death of a British Columbia father in a case that began as a feud between the victims' sons and another family but eventually dragged in the Hells Angels.

Dain Phillips, 51, was beaten to death in Kelowna, B.C., in June 2011 by a group of men wielding bats and hammers, including two members of the Hells Angels who already pleaded guilty to manslaughter in January.

Daniel McRae, his brother Matthew, the brothers' friend Anson Schell, and Robert Cocks were charged with manslaughter and stood trial earlier this year. The McRaes and Schell were convicted Friday, while Cocks was acquitted.

Hells Angels members Norman Cocks — who is Robert Cocks' son — and Robert Thomas pleaded guilty earlier this year and were each sentenced to 15 years.

The trial heard the McRae brothers had a long history of bad blood with Phillips' sons, Kody and Kaylin, which fuelled a series of threatening exchanges on Facebook in late May and early June 2011.

At the same time, Daniel McRae was close friends with Norman Cocks, who he knew was a Hells Angels member. At some point, he told Norman Cocks that Kody Phillips had attempted to pass off a connection to the Hells Angels, claiming that his "boss" was a member.

That brought Norman Cocks into the feud, which escalated over a period of two days until Daniel McRae set up a meeting with the Phillips family.

That set the stage for a violent confrontation in which Dain Phillips, who reportedly was unarmed and raised his hands in surrender, was beaten unconscious by as group of men as his sons looked on. He died the following day in hospital.

The trial heard from numerous witnesses, as well as recordings from an unrelated police surveillance operation that was targeting Norman Cocks.

Judge Mark McEwan said there was not enough evidence to prove Daniel McRae, Matthew McRae or Anson Schell actively participated in the beating.

But he said it was clear the trio knew members of the Hells Angels were planning on attacking the Phillips' family, and the men either encouraged the assault or helped facilitate it.

Daniel McRae in particular played a central role in turning the Hells Angels against the Phillips' family and setting up the assault, the judge said.

"Daniel McRae knew an offence was intended ... and had a great deal to do with ensuring that it happened," McEwan said as he read his decision.

"His attendance at the scene was an act of assistance and encouragement."

As McEwan read the verdict against Daniel McEwan, members of Phillips' family erupted in applause, prompting the judge and the sheriffs to order them to keep quiet.

Others in the gallery wept as McEwan continued reading the guilty verdicts against Matthew McRae and Schell.

The judge said Robert Cocks lived in the same house as Norman Cocks and Robert Thomas and was "inured to the lifestyle of the Hells Angels as anyone who was not a member could be."

However, McEwan said that while Robert Cocks was among the men who was at the scene of the beating, there was a "paucity" of evidence to prove he was more than a bystander.

Consequently, Robert Cocks was acquitted.

Daniel McRae, Matthew McRae and Anson Schell will return for a sentencing hearing in late September. Until then, they will remain free on bail.

Follow @ByJamesKeller on Twitter

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